President Wohlpart delivers State of the University speech

Reflected on road to CWU presidency, shared four steps to take CWU to the “next level”

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  • Wohlpart delivered his first State of the University speech as CWU’s President in the Concert Hall of the Music Building on Oct. 20.

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Sean Bessette, Editor in Chief

Roughly four years ago, President Jim Wohlpart and his father, who passed away from cancer a little over a year ago, drove up the Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee to the Snowbird Mountain Lodge in Robbinsville, North Carolina, his father’s favorite place in the Smoky Mountains.

Wohlpart reflected on this journey as he started his first State of the University speech as CWU’s 15th President Wednesday in the Concert Hall of the Music Building. On the way back down the Cherohala Skyway, Wohlpart shared one specific moment.

“As we [Wohlpart and his father] stood together in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest alone but embraced by something much bigger, much grander than our own lives, I felt the way in which my father’s deep sadness at his own mortality was imbued with an awareness that his life was whole,” Wohlpart said.

Wohlpart and his father, who was a professor and department head of biology at Kenyon College, often talked about work. His father had a profound impact on his life, his values and his role as a faculty member and administrator, according to Wohlpart.

“We have an opportunity before us as an institution,” Wohlpart said. “We also have a great responsibility to take our work to the next level.”

To get to that next level, Wohlpart shared four thoughts.

“To elevate shared governance and shared leadership”

Wohlpart said he considered three elements under this topic. The first of which is to work in ways that are collaborative and inclusive. The second element is to find meaningful ways to share information that is relevant and allows for participation in decision-making.

“That is to be transparent in ways that inform members of the university community so that they can participate in governance,” Wohlpart said.

The third element of shared governance is to be data-informed but not data-driven, according to Wohlpart. He said that behind every data point is a human life, so our decisions should be data-informed, but not necessarily data-driven.

“Our Office of Human Resources and Student Wellness have provided great leadership over the last couple months getting us to the place where we are now, where 93% of our campus is vaccinated,” Wohlpart said.

As of publication, roughly 93% of those in compliance with CWU’s vaccine mandate, not 93% of those on campus. There are still approximately 1,600 students not in compliance. Check pages 4-5 for more coverage on the vaccine mandate.

“To be guided by a well-thought-out vision, mission and strategic plan”

A survey concerning the vision, mission and strategic plan was recently sent to members of the campus community. The deadline to complete the survey was Oct. 15.

Wohlpart said he thought there would be around 200-300 responses. There were 712 responses.

Due to the larger than expected feedback on the survey, drafts of the vision, mission and strategic plan have been pushed back, according to Wohlpart.

“The strategic plan that will be developed as a community will provide a blueprint for how we will achieve our vision. It will guide all decision-making,” Wohlpart said. “I won’t stand up here every year and give you a new set of goals and targets, that [the strategic plan] will be our target.”

“To embody an ethos of deep care”

Wohlpart challenged the campus community to care deeply for the individuals for who they are, but also for who they are becoming.

“At the same time we share care and concern for individuals, we must think institutionally. To think beyond our programs, departments, colleges, divisions, to what is best for the university as a whole,” Wohlpart said. “And then beyond even that. To broaden our thinking out to incorporate the Ellensburg community and Kittitas Valley.”

“To remember the deep purpose of our work”

Wohlpart said that CWU is centrally focused on transforming the lives of students, their families and their communities. He referred to this as a remarkable opportunity but also an important responsibility.

“We must provide every student who comes to CWU the opportunity to know who they are, to find confidence in that person who they are becoming and to find a pathway forward into the future that allows them to thrive,” Wohlpart said. “I would say the same for our faculty and staff.”

Wohlpart said he learned from his father that the role of higher education is to assist in engaging with the pressing issues of today, including climate change, racial injustice and the polarization of our democracy and civic society.

“This work will take open minds and open hearts. It will take building bridges and building relationships. Everyone will have a role to play as our work moves to this next level,” Wohlpart said. “We can’t do this work in silence. We must come together as a community to learn to be hosts and facilitate diverse perspectives to be leaders in place.”

Greg Lyman, chair of the faculty senate, introduced Wohlpart prior to his speech.